Maximizing the Time Value of Content

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We all know about the time value of money. Getting money today is worth more than getting money tomorrow. But what happens when we turn the tables and look at the time value of content from the perspective of our prospects and customers? Answer: We find out that the further upstream a prospect is in our marketing funnel, the more the prospect places a heavy premium on the value of time. The implications of this lesson for content marketing professionals is profound.

In a recent post on aligning content marketing with your customer lifecycle and business directory, you may have noticed that every micro-transaction in a good content marketing plan requires a prospect to make some commitment in time and attention. The customer lifecycle begins with trading companies’ content for prospects’ attention and then gradually transforms into trading companies’ products for customers’ business.

In the early stages of the customer lifecycle, the prospect’s time and attention is the most important asset the company seeks to get from the prospect. This is the stage when the company needs to communicate its brand messages to convince the prospect that the problem the company solves really exists, that the company is uniquely positioned to solve that problem, and that the problem is a high enough priority that it should be solved now. All of this education requires the prospect to donate time and attention to the company’s messages. If the company’s content marketing cannot compel the prospect to spend the time and attention to get past the earliest stages in the customer lifecycle, the prospect will never become a paying customer.

At the same time, the early stages of the customer lifecycle are exactly when prospects are least likely to donate their time and attention. They’re already inundated with information overload from countless other companies pushing their messages. They don’t know your company from the hundred others barraging them every day. And your company has not yet established any credibility or trust to justify spending any time listening to your marketing messages. B2B prospects don’t make impulse buys. They’re not lounging on the couch or in line at the store wondering what to buy. They’re busy people with hectic schedules and they’re only willing to spend time and attention on something that will help them accomplish their missions. Everything else is noise.

So what’s a content marketing professional to do? The whole customer lifecycle depends on getting early-stage prospects to take that first step. A prospect’s time and attention is critical to achieving that goal. But the prospect places the heaviest premium on time and attention at this early stage in the relationship.

I was recently discussing this very dilemma with Jill Konrath, author of the blog Selling to Big Companies and the new book, Snap Selling, which focuses on the topic of getting your message through to prospects whose scarcest asset is time and attention. So I asked Jill for a quick summary (yes, putting her to her own test) of what content marketing folks can do to break through to time-sensitive, early stage prospects.

Here’s what she had to say: “You’ll speed up sales and convert more customer if you offer a simple message that’s aligned with your prospects’ top priorities, put high priority decision points in front of them in a timely manner, and become the person your prospects can’t live without.”

In case you’re still reading past the hook, she went on to offer more insights into exactly how you can put her advice to good use:

“Today’s decision makers have less time than ever. Their inboxes and smart phones are filled with useless marketing messages. Getting their attention is more challenging than ever. To stand out from all this background noise, pack as much value into every word as you can. Keep your message simple so it can be read quickly. Make sure it’s relevant to their top priorities. Once you’ve got their attention, don’t lose it. Make sure you’re always on topic with what matters to them most. That’s the path to being the one person your prospects can’t live without.”

Although Jill’s advice seems like common sense in many ways, I’d be wealthy beyond all measure if I had a nickel for every time I saw a marketer fail to execute on what Jill is describing. Jargon replaces message simplicity. Product-focused marketing content fails to focus on the top priorities of prospects in favor of feature-oriented “show up and throw up” content. And sales reps rarely reach the status of trusted advisor.

So if you’re looking for ways to get early stage prospects to donate their coveted time and attention, I’d recommend listening to Jill’s advice. She’s nailed the key points right on the head. In my own quick summary of her key points:

  • Keep the message short and simple.
  • Focus your content marketing from the point of view of the prospect (not your company or products).
  • Frame your content marketing within the context of solving the prospect’s highest-priority problems.
  • Create content that positions your sales reps as trusted advisors.

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